Home > Say You'll Stay (Return to Me #1)

Say You'll Stay (Return to Me #1)
Author: Corinne Michaels

“WHY DON’T YOU HEAD HOME, Presley? I can close up,” Angie offers from behind the counter.

We run a small cupcake shop in Media, Pennsylvania. It’s been a long few days with our two bakers being sick. I’ve worked almost forty hours in three days, and I’m beyond tired. Angie doesn’t bake, but she runs the business side of things, which means I’ve had to fill in both spots by myself.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” She laughs. “Now go before I call Todd and make him drag you out.”

“You’re lucky I love you.”

She kisses my cheek. “I love you more, even if you drive me nuts with your need for perfection.”

Angelina, or Angie as we all call her, is my sister-in-law and former college roommate. My husband is her brother, who I fell in love with when he was there for me during a dark time in my life. Of course, at first she didn’t love the idea of us dating, but she came around when she saw how well we fit together.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” I grab my coat and head to my car before I find a reason to stick around.

I call my house, but the boys don’t answer. I picture Logan with his headphones on, playing some mindless game, and Cayden refuses to move for anything. It’s a daily adventure with those two. It’s hard to believe they’ll both be in middle school next year. It feels like they were infants only yesterday.

The machine beeps, and I pray one of them or my husband hears it. “Hey boys, I’m on my way home. I hope your homework is done. I’d like to maybe go out for dinner? Love you! Oh, and Todd . . . don’t forget to call your mother, she’s called eight times this week.”

I turn out of the lot and head to where I’m sure chaos is in full effect. We own a beautiful row home about ten minutes from the bakery. His parents moved to Florida to escape the cold winters, and there was no way in hell I was moving back to Tennessee after college. I’d have to be dragged there in cuffs. So, my in-laws sold it to us after we got married. We gutted it, and now it’s everything I could want. The remodel ended up costing more than buying a new place, but we wanted to live here.

Once I park, I check myself quickly. My face is covered in various baking products, and thanks to the bowl of flour I sent flying earlier today, my dark brown hair is sprinkled with white powder. Typical day.

“Hello?” I call out as I enter the house. Papers are thrown around, shoes are left where they landed, and coats are dropped right where the boys walked in. I swear, getting anyone to hang something up is like pulling teeth. “Boys! Clean this mess!” I yell, but no one responds.

I walk toward the family room where, exactly as I assumed, they’re playing a game with their headphones on. I lift one side off each of their ears. “Hey!”

“Mom!” they both grumble. “We’re playing a game.”

“I see that. How about you play clean the hallway? I think that sounds like a fun game.” I smile and kiss them each on the cheek, which grants me another protest. “Aww, don’t you want your Mommy—”

“Stop!” They pause the game and jump up. “You love to embarrass us,” Logan complains.

“It’s my mission in life.” I shrug. “Where’s your dad?”

“We haven’t seen him since we got home. I guess he’s upstairs.”

“Go clean up, and then we’ll talk about how school was.” I point to the door as they drag their feet.

Mama always said boys are easier. Maybe having only one is, but twins are a whole new world of fun. They use the other to bargain for what they want. Todd and I are always on our toes. That being said, I have no doubt that being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world.

“Babe?” I call toward the bedroom.

No answer.

“Todd! I’m home.”

He’s probably in his office or on the phone. We have a relationship that all our friends envy. No matter what obstacles we face, we have each other. He’s truly the most loving and caring man I’ve ever met. He’s never strayed or been anything but supportive. When I said that Angie and I wanted to open the store, he didn’t blink. We took out loans, and he stood behind me. I know that I can always count on him. He loves me more than I deserve.

I climb the stairs but don’t see him in the office or the boys’ room.

“Babe, are you here?” I ask again with no response. “Todd?” I look around the bedroom, but he’s not here.

I walk toward the bathroom. “Hun, are you in here? You can at least answer me.” I laugh and open the door.

My body goes still.

My heart shatters.

My world crumbles.

“No!” I scream, rushing toward him. His body hangs limp on a rope tied to the beam in the ceiling. His lips are blue, eyes bloodshot, and there’s not a sound coming from him. “God, no!” I grab his legs, trying to hold him up as my body shakes. I need to get him down. Fear grips me as I use all my strength to keep him from hanging.

He doesn’t respond or move. “Todd, please. You can’t. Why?” I cry as tears fall relentlessly. I fight with everything I have to wake him.

I need to call 911, but I know. I know with everything inside me that it’s too late. There’s no sound of breathing. No movement. I can’t save him. He’s gone. But I refuse to give up. I rush to the other room and grab the phone.

I fumble as I dial, and my hands shake so hard I can barely press the buttons. As the call goes through, I return to trying to bring him back to me.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“M-my husband!” I scream into the receiver as I keep trying to hold him. “He tried . . . I mean, I t-think he’s d-dead. He’s not breathing.”

“Okay, ma’am, remain calm and tell me your address?”

I rattle off what I hope is the correct address. I can’t see as the tears blind me. “How could you leave me?” I sob as my arms cramp. “He’s not breathing!” I tell the operator frantically. I hoist him up as much as I can with one arm and press my fingers to his wrist, but I feel nothing.

“Ma’am, can you tell me what happened?”

I’d like to know the same thing. He would never do this to me and the boys. Yet, here I stand with my arms around his legs and his lifeless body. My chest aches as I think of Logan and Cayden unaware of what’s happening. “He’s h-hanging. I can’t get him down. I’m trying to push up, but I-I . . .” Every part of me breaks apart as I say the words. Then it hits me. “Oh, God.” I shake even harder. “My boys. They’re in the house. They don’t know,” I explain to the 911 operator.

“Can you tell me your name?”

“Presley. Presley Benson.”

“Okay, Presley. I’m Donna, and I’m going to stay on the line with you until the police and paramedics arrive. Is he moving at all?” Donna asks.

“No. He’s not moving. He’s not waking up. He . . . he’s . . . I can’t let the boys see this.”

“Is he breathing or making any sounds?”

I shake my head as I hear her words but can’t respond. This can’t be real. This is just a fucking dream. There’s no way this is real. Wake up, Presley . I shake my head, but nothing changes.

“Presley, are you there?”

“He’s not breathing. He has no pulse,” I say as the fear sharpens every nerve in my body. I’m breaking apart as the words spill from my mouth.

She talks as I fall back on my heels. “Take a few deep breaths. Can you have your children open the door for the police?”

“No.” I have to protect them. He’s dead. My husband of thirteen years just took his own life. “They can’t see this. I can never let them see him like this.”

Why would he do this? How am I going to tell them? How? I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.

“All right, Presley, I need you to open the front door. The officers are almost there.”

“My boys. I-I have to . . .”

“Go to the front door, shield the boys as much as you can. They’ll be there in less than three minutes. Can you do that?”

Can I do anything?

Can I move?

Tears fall as I release my arms. “Why, Todd?” I whisper. A sob erupts from my chest as I stand there unable to move. “Why?”

“Are you still there?” Donna asks.

“I’m here. I can’t breathe. They can’t see him like this. He’s just . . .”

“I know, Presley. Take a deep breath, help is almost there. Can you go downstairs and bring them to a neighbor?”

I fall to the ground. My knees hit the unforgiving floor, but it’s nothing compared to the pain in my chest. I sit, unmoving, as my life falls apart. I have to think of those precious boys whose lives are about to be altered. The only thing I can do is be certain they’re protected. I wipe my face and try to pull myself together as much as I can.

“I’m heading there now.”

“Okay, I’ll remain on the phone with you until the officer arrives if you’d like.”

Right now, Donna is the only person that knows. If I disconnect the call, then this is it. It’s irrational and ridiculous, but once this call disconnects . . . it’s all real. “Please. I can’t do this alone.”

“Of course. I’m right here. You’re not alone, Presley.”

I manage to lift myself off the floor. My feet somehow move forward. I head to the living room, and Logan looks up.

“Mom?” He stands.

“I need you boys to go out the back and knock on Mrs. Malgieri’s door. Play with Ryan until I come get you,” I instruct on autopilot. My eyes close as I fold my arm around my torso.

Logan rushes over. He’s always been my more sensitive soul. This is going to crush him. “What’s wrong?”

I place my hand against his cheek as a tear falls. “You and Cayden go, and I’ll be there in a bit.” My voice cracks as the pain rips through me. My boys. My sweet, innocent, and loving boys will never be the same. Cayden’s eyes well as I’m sure he hears the pain in my words.

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